Taking a spin in a T-680

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So I got a chance to ride shotgun in Kenworth Truck Co.’s new T-680 highway tractor last week during the 2012 Mid America Trucking Show – in my case, rolling down the highway in a daycab model pulling a very lightly loaded 53-foot trailer (just around 20,000 lbs or so).

Mark Brown, director of program management for Kenworth, did the piloting for this particular “ride along,” pointing out just some of the T-680’s many interior design features as we cruised down I-64 just north of Louisville, KY.

What interests me so much about new truck introductions like the hoopla surrounding the T-680; rather, it’s discerning just how much work goes on behind the scenes over the course of many years to make improvements to even the most mundane of features.

Take the grab handles ubiquitous to any truck interior. Brown told me that Kenworth developed some 200 different types and styles for the various cab “mock ups” it took to trucks stops, dealerships, and other public venues to get feedback from drivers, technicians, and others.

All of that work resulted in grab handles that are located right inside the door opening at specific spots coated with a fine textured material for easy griping. He added that by moving them inside the door opening, they are always located exactly where needed. Also, as one used to be located on the exterior, they don’t create any drag, thus helping improve the aerodynamic profile of the truck.

All the exterior shaping that goes into a truck like the T-680 is even more critical today with diesel fuel again over the $4 per gallon mark, Brown explained, which is why Kenworth spent a lot of time working to get the T-680’s aerodynamic footprint just right.

Now of course comes the ultimate test; after four years of work, customers now become the ultimate judge and jury of the T-680. With production slated to begin May 21 this year, the court of customer opinion will thus be convening very soon – and the verdict will indeed be closely watched. 

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